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Last Updated: Saturday, 20 August 2005, 01:36 GMT 02:36 UK
'My son had a stroke aged three'
By Jane Elliott
BBC News health reporter

Jacob and Liz Jackson
Jacob was given an award for his courage
When Liz Jackson brought her son home from hospital after a massive stroke it was like having a newborn baby in the body of a three-year-old.

Jacob, who had been potty-trained, could no longer control his bowels. He had lost the ability to walk, use his arms or even talk.

Four years on, Jacob, from Liversedge, in West Yorkshire is attending a mainstream school.

He has learnt to write and is walking again, but his arms are still affected.

Award

Jacob recently won the 'Junior Courage' award from the Stroke Association in honour of his achievements, but his mother explains that he has had a long and painful struggle.

"He had to re-learn everything from scratch," she said. "He has still got a long way to go, but when he first got sick, the doctors said he was probably never going to be able to walk or talk again, and would never read or write.

He is unbelievable he copes with everything
Liz Jackson

"But we thought he had been going to die, and so we would have taken anything just to have him back."

Jacob was a perfectly healthy little boy before his stoke.

He had been playing happily with his sister when he collapsed suddenly. Nobody has been able to establish why.

She said: "He curled into a ball, and his face started to hang down and he started making this horrible noise.

"He was all lop-sided and his right side looked like it was made out of elastic."

A terrified Liz phoned 999 and, as she was on the phone, Jacob started turning blue. She was told to tilt his head back and he started to breathe again.

Diagnosis

Doctors initially suspected febrile convulsions, but Jacob's condition continued to deteriorate.

Tests for meningitis proved negative, and Jacob was moved to a specialist hospital where the stroke was confirmed.

A stroke is an interruption of the blood supply to the brain that causes brain cells to die.

Strokes in children are very unusual. They tend to occur due to rare conditions such as a brain infection, severe dehydration or heart disease present from birth.

"He was getting worse," said Liz. "He could not hold his head up and he would pull my face down to his and just growl.

"He was in absolute agony. The neurologists in Leeds said he had a massive stroke and his brain was full of blood clots."

But Liz said Jacob was a fighter and is determined to take part in everything he can with his classmates.

The common thinking is that they might have had contact with a previous illness, the common thinking is chicken pox
Dr Fenella Kirkham

"He even took part in the school sports. He was last in everything, but he loved it.

"He is unbelievable he copes with everything."

He dreams of becoming a builder, like Liz's dad.

But she says the family must face the fact, that, although Jacob has made tremendous steps, he will never fully recover and it is unclear how this will affect his abilities.

"They have told us that he will never make a full recovery as the damage in his brain was so bad.

"Now we have to get used to the new Jacob, and we have to grieve for the old Jacob.

"Sometimes I get down and frustrated. He is also getting frustrated as he gets older and he can't do things, but it makes him more willing to do his exercises."

She said the award had meant a lot both to her and to Jacob, particularly because it brought them into contact with other people who have had strokes.

"Jacob is always talking about one of the ladies he met at the awards and saying 'She has had a stroke like me'."

Joe Korner, Director of Communications for The Stroke Association said: "Jacob's courage and determination in getting over his stroke is a shining example to not only other children who experience stroke, but also to the 130,000 adults who have a stroke each year."

Dr Fenella Kirkham, reader in paediatric neurology at the Institute of Child Health, London, said that childhood stroke had been linked to episodes of chickenpox, although this had not been the case with Jacob.

"About half are due to a previous illness such as cardiac illness, sickle cell or Downs Syndrome.

"The other half are children who have been previously well, but the common thinking is that they might have had contact with a previous illness, the common thinking is it could be chicken pox."

But Dr Kirkham said that vaccinating children to prevent this was not thought to be a viable option, as the vaccine had also been linked to stroke in certain small groups of children.

She said that children seemed to recover better than adults from stroke, adding that this could be because the areas of damage were often smaller in children and their compensating mechanisms better.




SEE ALSO:
Therapy hope for stroke victims
20 Jan 05 |  Health


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